Gatorland was founded in 1949 by cattle-rancher Owen Godwin as the Florida Wildlife Institute on Highway 441 (the South Orange Blossom Trail) between Orlando and Kissimmee and is still owned by the family to this day.
A new zip line ride called the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line opened in June 2011. It was the first real ride at Gatorland and is a separately charged attraction.
Gatorland is billed as the “Alligator Capital of the World” and the 110 acre park and wildlife preserve is home to over 5,000 of alligators plus crocodiles, birds and snakes
In April 2017, Gatorland announced their biggest expansion yet with the construction of the Stompin’ Gator Off-Road Adventure off-road monster buggy ride. It is set to open in September 2017.
When the Florida Wildlife Institute opened, it was the first major attraction in the Orlando area. Today Gatorland is a little off the main tourist area around the Walt Disney World Resort, SeaWorld, Universal Orlando® Resort and all the attractions on International Drive but it is still worth a visit. It is about 15 to 20 minutes drive away.
The famously tacky gaping alligator jaws entrance was built in 1962 and is still there today though a devastating fire in November 2006 damaged the entrance area and gift shop.
The park reopened after a couple of weeks but the rebuilding of the entrance area and gift shop took about a year to complete. The park remained open during this period.
After all the razzle-dazzle of the big theme parks, Gatorland offers low-key “Old Florida” charm and fun for all the family.
As well as a zoo and working with the University of Florida researching alligator reproduction and artificial insemination, Gatorland also is a working alligator farm, breeding alligators for their meat and hides. It is a little strange to walk around the zoo seeing all these alligators and then being offered gator snacks such as alligator nuggets in the restaurant.
The main attraction is the 300 or so, very large 14 to 15 foot alligators. There is also a breeding marsh area and bird rookery with a boardwalk and observation tower, an aviary, children’s petting zoo and Lilly’s Pad Splash Zone water park, Gatorland Express Railroad around the park, educational wildlife programs and Pearl’s Smokehouse restaurant.
In the native Cypress Swamp walk, you can see what a lot of Central Florida used to look like many years ago before the swamps were drained.
There are a four different shows during the day, namely the Gator Wrestlin’ Show where gator wranglers wrestle with up to eight foot alligators, the Gator Jumparoo Show where alligators jump up out of the water to take food from the trainers hand, Jungle Crocs of the World and the Upclose Animal Encounters Show featuring some of the most dangerous snakes in the world.
You should allow at least half a day if you want to see all the attractions. It is best to arrive before mid-afternoon or you may miss some of the shows. Note that in the winter months, alligators can be very lethargic early in the morning as they take a while to “warm up”.
Read more about Gatorland ticket options and prices.